Agent Lane investigates;Diary;Opinion

15th January 1999 at 00:00
THE TIME:the late 1970s. The place: a street on the Essex fringes of London. It is night. Close-up of a man, youthful and oddly familiar, peering through binoculars at shadowy figures slipping into a building. He notes a name in a book.

This is the murky world of east London politics, a place of secret meetings, surveillance and bitter ideological feuds.

Flash forward. The man is older and greyer, but still boyish and instantly recognisable. We know him as Graham Lane, education chair at the Local Government Association.

The building that night was a masonic meeting hall; the people slipping inside high-ranking figures in the murky world of Newham politics and education; the man spying from the car the footsoldier of truth we call Agent Lane. "It was a bloody battle to fight the masonic influence," he recalls. "If you fell foul of them your cards were marked.

"A lot of internal appointments in the council were masonic-inspired. We could tell because there were a lot of white, male, not-very-bright people in key jobs."

Despite threats of disciplinary action at work he fought on. "But we couldn't identify who the masons were," says Lane. Then a leaked document took them to a neighbouring borough.

"We made a list of everybody going into the hall and presented it to them. They had denied it until then." The exposed masons included some senior officers and the odd committee chair. Lane believes equal opportunities policies now keep infiltrators out.

"If there are any masons on the council now, they've lied on their application form. It's one of the reasons we've made so much progress since."

But doesn't it all seem dull in comparison?

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